A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 41 And so he hobbled along the snow-covered road for two days, throwing out his staff, resting upon it and drawing his feet up. By this time his feet were quite numb and felt nothing, but his body was convulsed with pain at every step. He no longer felt the pangs of hunger. The spasms and cutting pains in his stomach had become a dull, constant ache, as if the empty stomach had hardened and turned, pressing against his insides. Alexei's food consisted of young pine bark which he stripped off the trees with his dirk in his rest intervals, the buds of birch- and lime-trees, and also the soft, green moss which he dug up from under the snow and stewed in boiling water during his nightly bivouacs. A joy to him was the "tea" he brewed from lacquered bilberry leaves which he gathered on thawed patches of ground. The hot liquid sent a warm glow through his whole body and even created the illusion of satiety. Sipping the hot brew that smelt of smoke and leaves, he felt soothed, and his journey did not seem so endless and terrible. On his sixth bivouac he again lay under the green tent of a spreading fir-tree and lit his fire round an old, resinous tree stump, which, he calculated, would smoulder and give off heat the whole night. It was still light. Over- head an invisible squirrel was busy in the top branches of the fir-tree, shelling fir-cones and throwing the empty and mutilated cones to the ground. Alexei, whose mind was now constantly concentrated on food, wondered what it was that the squirrel found in the cones. He picked up a cone, stripped off one of the scales and beneath it found a winged seed about the size of a millet grain. In ap- pearance it looked like a tiny cedar nut. He put the seed in his mouth, crushed it between his teeth and felt the pleasant flavour of cedar oil. He collected a few fir-cones that were lying around, put them on the fire, added a handful of brushwood, and when the cones opened from the heat he shook the seeds into his hand, crushed them between his palms, blew the winged husks away and threw the tiny nuts into his mouth.